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24 September 2014

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The upside (down) of death!

The subject of death is not usually taken quite so lightly, but across Surrey and Sussex, folk have been approaching it in some rather unusual ways. Meet the people who didn't take death lying down, as it were!

2)  Major Peter Labelliere - Box Hill, near Dorking, Surrey

There may have been some dispute over whether John Oliver is meeting his maker the wrong way up, but in Major Labelliere's case there's none.   

Had sandwiches been invented by the 4th Earl of, then Major Peter would have certainly been a picnic short of them. Slightly barking, to put it mildly, the officer of the Marines, who lived in Dorking, had lead a somewhat unhappy life.

He had fallen in love with one Hetty Fletcher, at an early age and, according to an early 19th-century book called "Promenade round Dorking"  was eventually rejected.... "a circumstance which could not fail to inflict a deep wound on his delicate mind".  

Box Hill

Box Hill by Tom Aspel, Dorking

He spent the end of his life at lodgings in South Street and died, as he had prophesied previously, in 1800. He was buried, at his request, upside down in a ten foot hole on the top of Box Hill.  "As the world is turned upside down on Judgment Day," he said, "only he, would be correct way up".

Not content with that, he also asked that two of his landlady's children dance on his coffin, to show that funerals were not sombre affairs. Needless to say, that wasn't felt to be in the best possible taste and only the boy complied, while the little girl sat on the edge and watched.    

There is a monument on the hill, said to be the spot where he is buried, but in fact, he is a few feet further down the slope. Still waiting patiently, upside down....

last updated: 21/02/2008 at 16:17
created: 21/02/2008

Have Your Say

Can you add more details to this feature? Do you know more about Major Peter Labelliere, Richard Hull, Samuel Drinkwater or John Oliver? Let us know.

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Judith Warren
The spelling should be Olliver. My mother, who's maiden name was Olliver, always claimed he was a relative. I have never come across anything published about him before and assumed it was just a story. Unfortunately, my mother is not here to enlighten me any further.

Geoff Ayres
John Drinkald & Sons were successful merchants, trading with the East Indies, from their premises at 19 Beer Lane, Tower Street, London. The sons were John, Samuel & Joshua. John & Joshua had land in Wisborough Green & Rudgwick. Samuel died in July 1822, and the story about his being thrown from his horse, may well be true. His brother John Drinkald kept racehorses at his Wisborough Green farm. His land extended into the parish Pulborough. Joshua was married to a daughter of the Napper family. John Senior died on Dec 30th 1823, aged 84. So it seems likely that his son John then built the Toat tower, on the most obvious open hilltop on his land, to commemorate the deaths of both his father John, and his brother Samuel, within 18 months. Samuel was baptised on the 8th January 1779, so when he died, he was about 43.In April 1833 there was a bitter legal battle in the Court of Exchequer, when the Rector of Pulborough, John Austin Clerk, claimed tithes from five farmers, including John & Joshua Drinkald. When John Drinkald was voted Chairman of the Pulborough Poor Law Vestry Meeting on 4th Oct 1832, the Rev. Clerk just rose and left the meeting.

when i die, i wish to be buried upside down too. not for religious reasons but because i think it would be funny.

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